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The Art of Horror Vol 1. – What Makes a Monster Movie Great?

The Art of Horror Vol 1. – What Makes a Monster Movie Great?

No matter how often I talk about movies  (and it happens a lot),  I will stand by my statement: Horror is the most challenging genre to nail. 

The way I see it, it’s incredibly hard to find the balance in them. You take just one wrong step and the card tower you built so carefully crumbles down. That’s the reason why it became very difficult to actually find good ones out there. Don’t get me wrong, there are MANY horror movies, but only a small percentage of them are actually worth your time. 

In this new series, I will attempt to guide you through the best choices in each sub-genre in horror. Our first stop is my personal favorite: monster movies. 

Now, there are countless monster movies out there, but not all of them are actually in the horror category. Those that actually made the cut are mostly pretty bad, but not for the reasons you may think. I wholeheartedly believe that finding a good entry in this sub-genre is very, VERY challenging. 

Just like in every movie, the structure is critical. That’s what monster horrors often fail to do successfully. The main thing that needs to be done right for it to work correctly is the introduction of the threat itself. Let’s look at what I mean with the greatest example of all time: Alien (1979).

The first thing the movie does is introduce our characters, their environment, and their purpose. It’s a pretty standard opening in the book of filmmaking. Then the conflict arrives – in this case – through an emergency transmission that they need to investigate, disrupting their original mission. What they do in these opening scenes is give the audience the feeling of unease through the set design, the camera angles, and the eerie music. You don’t know why, but you can tell that something is not okay right from the beginning, even before the transmission arrives. This is a tool of horror that is essential. Without it, what you are building towards simply won’t have the desired effect. 

Fanart: Instagram: @paulbutcher_art

They go down to the planetoid (LV-426), sending a small team to locate the transmission source. At this point, the viewer knows something isn’t right. When they find the spaceship, we get our first look at another element that moves these films forward – and are very real, by the way – Human Stupidity. They ventured right into a completely unknown spaceship without any preparation or caution. Yes, folks, I know many people like to complain about how characters are often portrayed as intelligent people making dumb decisions.  Trust me when I say this: it is very much a real-life reflection. It’s in our nature to be curious about the unknown. That unexplained knock in the house or the unidentified spaceship, yet we venture forth even if we know deep down that it probably isn’t a good idea. 

So our team goes in, and we arrive at the discovery of alien life in the form of the space jockey. And yes, you figured it out, they don’t leave, they need to discover more – again, human nature. The Egg Chamber scene is now known as a contestant on the “stupidest decisions ever made in a horror movie” list. Rightfully so, mind you, but it is also the perfect first introduction to the ‘threat’ that we were suspecting from the beginning.

However, the brilliance of Alien lies in the setup of the false feeling of safety Which is a vital tool for a good monster movie. The moment the facehugger lets go of Kane (John Hurt), the crew immediately starts to celebrate the return of their friend who feels amazing. It seems like no harm was done by the creature. SEEMS like. 

The dinner scene rolls in, creating one of the scariest scenes in film history. Kane seems to be choking on his food, but then moments later, is having another creature. -The chestburster bursts out of his chest and this has been the stuff of nightmares ever since. It’s also a prime example of world-building and establishing your creature. 

They even dare to take one more step by introducing the classic monster’s final – very well-known – form: the Xenomorph. With that, they double down on the threat of this silent killer. 

The absolute magic of how they structured the film to introduce the Alien comes from small details. The unease you feel from the very first frame to the way you facepalm yourself when Kane jumps down between the eggs. And then the fear that takes over when the facehugger attacks all have one thing in common: you haven’t even seen the creature itself yet. 

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Alien (1979)

And this movie becomes even more impressive when I share with you that the Xenomorph’s screen time in the whole 1 hour and 57 minutes is exactly 4 minutes. Alien is one of the prime examples of how to build your monster movie the right way. 

It also does an essential thing that needs to be followed by other films in this genre: establish your monster and give them rules. 

What do I mean exactly? 

The Xenomorph has three stages – facehugger, chestburster, and xenomorph. It needs a host body it can grow in. The creatures are intelligent, blind, and can move silently around and use tactics to capture their prey. The only way Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is able to kill the Xenomorph is by throwing it out of the spaceship and burning it with the engine. We also learn in Aliens that guns do work against them, just like fire. This is establishing your monster and giving them rules. 

Finding an entry in this sub-genre that has done an equally good job is difficult, and I actually only have 5 more movies that hit the previously mentioned marks. Indeed. Five. And a few honorable mentions. 

  1. Tremors (1990)

This one is the odd one out on the list. While it is a monster horror, it also counts as comedy. I couldn’t leave it out under any circumstances as it’s easily one of my favorite films of all time, and I will never shut up about it. The combination of Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) is the definition of buddy-comedy in my books. While the monsters – named Grabodans – are incredibly scary in concept (with them being unseen and moving at high speeds underground), the movie is loved by many mostly because of the action/comedy elements. It does an excellent job of building up to the introduction to the monster(s) itself. It establishes the creature’s behavior and its rules very early on. And though it’s a really fun movie to watch, it did inspire many people to use the underground monster as a threat. I remember seeing it later in Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules and the 2020 film Love and Monsters did a wink at the concept. It has also appeared in MANY video games like Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy and Mass Effect (the Thresher Maw).  

So while others might argue if this counts as a horror entry, I will stand by it wholeheartedly (mostly because it’s yet another excuse for me to talk about it).

  1. Jaws (1975)

Behind the scenes shot from Jaws

A Spielberg classic that kept people out of the water for months when it premiered. Yes. I am serious. This movie put such a strong fear into people that beaches (except for Martha’s Vineyard) were basically empty for months. A sort of hysteria overtook some members of the public, resulting in numerous incidents across the US. The threat of a huge shark – even if it was a horror element in a movie – was too real for folks to deal with. The movie did an amazing job of building its structure. It started off instantly with an attack not showing the shark at all, raising the fear of the unknown even more. Spielberg used an underwater shot showing Chrissie (Susan Backlinie) from the point of view of the hunter, but he had already built up your unease from the beginning. Dark water and brilliant music, thanks to John Williams. Trust me when I say this: the music and its use in the movie is one of the most important parts of the progress. 

Oddly enough, the shark named Bruce after Steven Spielberg’s lawyer – only has 4 minutes of screen time, just like the Xenomorph in Alien. 

  1. The Host (2006)

I already wrote about Bong Joon Ho’s amazing horror film The Host in my previous article about why you should start watching Korean Movies and Tv Shows

But we can’t talk about monster movies without mentioning this one. This one is special. Not just because it’s an excellent horror entry, but because of the drama elements it carries along beautifully throughout its whole runtime. Here the introduction starts with the creation of the monster itself. The good old-fashioned chemicals in the water scenario works extremely well here (I also very much liked it in Eight Legged Freaks). Only then do we get to know the main characters the story revolves around. The movie – quite unexpectedly – introduces us to the fully evolved monster right at the beginning, and we get the beautifully choreographed – and scary – beach scene. The way they used all of the previously mentioned tools here is beyond amazing. Not only does Bong Joon Ho manage to introduce us to the protagonists, but he also establishes and creates the rules of the antagonist while giving us one of the most intense scenes of the whole movie. 

The famous scene from the movie where our protagonist gets taken by the monster

The threat does not wait to show up; it is thrown in our faces right at the very beginning. But The Host is much more than just a very cleverly made horror movie; it is also an amazing drama. It has a perfect balance between the two which is very hard to do properly. You feel for these characters on a very deep level because they are so grounded in reality. You are scared for them, cry with them, mourn with them. 

This was my introduction to Bong Joon Ho’s work, and if you haven’t watched Parasite yet, I recommend that you start with this one too. 

  1. A Quiet Place (2018)

I never thought that John Krasinski would ever be able to surprise me this much. I don’t think any of us did. But he barged in, wrote this amazing story (with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck), directed it, and starred in it. All three in one. 

He was always the funny guy for me, not the master of tension and horror, yet here we are. I had a conversation with my friend, Katie, and I observed that this was the monster film I was waiting for since Alien. That’s high praise coming from me as I think I made it very clear that Alien is THE monster movie in my books. The opening for this first movie is simply masterful. John Krasinski didn’t waste any time establishing what we will experience. 

A Quiet Place gave me one of those perfect cinema experiences. I’m not overexaggerating when I say that this movie pulled everyone into its world so much that it was dead silent throughout the whole 90 minutes run time. Something that we all know rarely happens. There’s always someone chewing loudly or talking. Not with this one. 

Krasinski, with the very first shot, warned us all not to say a word. You can’t. One word to your friend on the left, or popcorn in your mouth, and you’re done for good. It was perfect world-building. We know the day, we see the state of the world, and we get introduced to the threat in the first 10 minutes. That’s when the movie proved that it will NOT be merciful to anyone in it. And it was all you needed to know that you are in for a wild ride. There’s a quieter part in the film where we witness their new dynamic, the drama that’s going on between the protagonists, and it is more than enough for people to connect with them in a very special way. 

When the inevitable arrives into the story, it perfectly balances all its players while slowly introducing us to the only weakness of the seemingly unbeatable monsters. And when it eventually pays off in the end, it is one of the most satisfying moments in cinematic history. 

  1. A Quiet Place – Part 2 (technically 2020 but in reality 2021) – SPOILERS, SKIP THIS PART IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN A QUIET PLACE – PART 2 YET! 

Yes, the rare case where the second one is better than the first. For me, at least. 

If I was tense during the previous movie, then this one doubles down on that. 

Day 1. 

What an ingenious way to start the movie. The audience is already intrigued. Day 1, huh? From the moment Lee (John Krasinski) enters the shop, gets what he wants, then goes out to the baseball field, the warning bells already go off in our heads. I was expecting one of the monsters to start wreaking havoc every second. I was literally on the edge of my seat. We witness their arrival – a spaceship or asteroid crashing through the atmosphere – and as the people start making their way back to their cars, the feeling of terror grows bigger. We are introduced to Emmett (Cillian Murphy) in this opening, and it becomes important later on. When I tell you all that I almost jumped out of my seat when the monster crashed into the police car, trust me, I’m not lying. The perspective changes to Regan (Millicent Simmonds – who is actually deaf) and every sound is cut off so we can experience the chaos from her point of view. It’s brilliant. The whole opening sequence (I don’t want to spoil everything in it) is absolutely masterfully done. It is one of the best openings I’ve ever seen. 

Then the story picks up right where the first movie ended. The family leaves the farm behind and goes to the last remaining signal fire that is left in the valley. The moment they step down from the sand road Lee created, you just know that everything will change. 

John Krasinski doubled down not only on the action but on the drama, the tension, and the scares as well. We stepped out of the quiet world of the Abbott family into a whole different one. The way he lets us take a closer look at how everything changed for other people as well is something that many before got wrong when it comes to second movies. Obviously, because of the success of the first one, second movies usually work with a bigger budget which can prompt directors to go big or go home. Krasinski didn’t do that. Sure, there is even more action in this one, but it still never loses focus on what’s important; hope. 

I loved how Emmett was shown at the beginning to be this rude, grieving man that slowly got turned around when he went after Regan. By the end of the film, he is a changed man, someone who dares to hope for the better thanks to those who arrived unexpectedly into his life. 

Kudos to both Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe (Marcus Abbott); they both portrayed their characters beautifully. I loved the subtle change they went through as well, how Marcus faced his fears and Regan stepped into her father’s footsteps. 

I loved the first movie, but I love the second entry even more. Beautifully done and the monsters are still scary as hell. 

 

Honorable mentions: 

Aliens (1986) – the only reason it isn’t among the previously mentioned six films is that I consider James Cameron’s movie more like an action film than a horror movie. It is in fact my favorite movie out of the Alien franchise, but it definitely focuses more on the action than the scares. 

Grabbers (2012) – this brilliant Irish film made me laugh so much. It does have a few scary moments, but just like Tremors they definitely went more in the direction of comedy. The monsters created for the film were brilliantly done. I highly recommend this movie to those who like to have a good mixture of both genres. 

Pitch Black (2000) – also known as the first Riddick film. Vin Diesel’s iconic character became well-known thanks to this and prompted the creators to expand its universe. This first film – fresh knowledge for me as well so it’s fair to say I freaked out – also features the one and only Claudia Black. 

The Descent 1-2 (2005, 2009) – I was contemplating adding this one to the creature feature section purely because the monsters are actually humanoids in this, I would even argue that they were once humans. This one also quickly turns into action instead of horror, which isn’t bad by any means. 

 

And there you have it. Is there a monster horror I left out that you love? I was also thinking about Love and Monsters (2020) that I dearly love, but after giving much thought to it I can safely say that other than a few tense scenes it definitely doesn’t fit the horror genre. 

 

The Art of Horror Vol 1. – What Makes a Monster Movie Great?

The Art of Horror Vol 1. – What Makes a Monster Movie Great?

No matter how often I talk about movies  (and it happens a lot),  I will stand by my statement: Horror is the most challenging genre to nail. 

The way I see it, it’s incredibly hard to find the balance in them. You take just one wrong step and the card tower you built so carefully crumbles down. That’s the reason why it became very difficult to actually find good ones out there. Don’t get me wrong, there are MANY horror movies, but only a small percentage of them are actually worth your time. 

In this new series, I will attempt to guide you through the best choices in each sub-genre in horror. Our first stop is my personal favorite: monster movies. 

Now, there are countless monster movies out there, but not all of them are actually in the horror category. Those that actually made the cut are mostly pretty bad, but not for the reasons you may think. I wholeheartedly believe that finding a good entry in this sub-genre is very, VERY challenging. 

Just like in every movie, the structure is critical. That’s what monster horrors often fail to do successfully. The main thing that needs to be done right for it to work correctly is the introduction of the threat itself. Let’s look at what I mean with the greatest example of all time: Alien (1979).

The first thing the movie does is introduce our characters, their environment, and their purpose. It’s a pretty standard opening in the book of filmmaking. Then the conflict arrives – in this case – through an emergency transmission that they need to investigate, disrupting their original mission. What they do in these opening scenes is give the audience the feeling of unease through the set design, the camera angles, and the eerie music. You don’t know why, but you can tell that something is not okay right from the beginning, even before the transmission arrives. This is a tool of horror that is essential. Without it, what you are building towards simply won’t have the desired effect. 

Fanart: Instagram: @paulbutcher_art

They go down to the planetoid (LV-426), sending a small team to locate the transmission source. At this point, the viewer knows something isn’t right. When they find the spaceship, we get our first look at another element that moves these films forward – and are very real, by the way – Human Stupidity. They ventured right into a completely unknown spaceship without any preparation or caution. Yes, folks, I know many people like to complain about how characters are often portrayed as intelligent people making dumb decisions.  Trust me when I say this: it is very much a real-life reflection. It’s in our nature to be curious about the unknown. That unexplained knock in the house or the unidentified spaceship, yet we venture forth even if we know deep down that it probably isn’t a good idea. 

So our team goes in, and we arrive at the discovery of alien life in the form of the space jockey. And yes, you figured it out, they don’t leave, they need to discover more – again, human nature. The Egg Chamber scene is now known as a contestant on the “stupidest decisions ever made in a horror movie” list. Rightfully so, mind you, but it is also the perfect first introduction to the ‘threat’ that we were suspecting from the beginning.

However, the brilliance of Alien lies in the setup of the false feeling of safety Which is a vital tool for a good monster movie. The moment the facehugger lets go of Kane (John Hurt), the crew immediately starts to celebrate the return of their friend who feels amazing. It seems like no harm was done by the creature. SEEMS like. 

The dinner scene rolls in, creating one of the scariest scenes in film history. Kane seems to be choking on his food, but then moments later, is having another creature. -The chestburster bursts out of his chest and this has been the stuff of nightmares ever since. It’s also a prime example of world-building and establishing your creature. 

They even dare to take one more step by introducing the classic monster’s final – very well-known – form: the Xenomorph. With that, they double down on the threat of this silent killer. 

The absolute magic of how they structured the film to introduce the Alien comes from small details. The unease you feel from the very first frame to the way you facepalm yourself when Kane jumps down between the eggs. And then the fear that takes over when the facehugger attacks all have one thing in common: you haven’t even seen the creature itself yet. 

Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley in Alien (1979)

And this movie becomes even more impressive when I share with you that the Xenomorph’s screen time in the whole 1 hour and 57 minutes is exactly 4 minutes. Alien is one of the prime examples of how to build your monster movie the right way. 

It also does an essential thing that needs to be followed by other films in this genre: establish your monster and give them rules. 

What do I mean exactly? 

The Xenomorph has three stages – facehugger, chestburster, and xenomorph. It needs a host body it can grow in. The creatures are intelligent, blind, and can move silently around and use tactics to capture their prey. The only way Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is able to kill the Xenomorph is by throwing it out of the spaceship and burning it with the engine. We also learn in Aliens that guns do work against them, just like fire. This is establishing your monster and giving them rules. 

Finding an entry in this sub-genre that has done an equally good job is difficult, and I actually only have 5 more movies that hit the previously mentioned marks. Indeed. Five. And a few honorable mentions. 

  1. Tremors (1990)

This one is the odd one out on the list. While it is a monster horror, it also counts as comedy. I couldn’t leave it out under any circumstances as it’s easily one of my favorite films of all time, and I will never shut up about it. The combination of Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) is the definition of buddy-comedy in my books. While the monsters – named Grabodans – are incredibly scary in concept (with them being unseen and moving at high speeds underground), the movie is loved by many mostly because of the action/comedy elements. It does an excellent job of building up to the introduction to the monster(s) itself. It establishes the creature’s behavior and its rules very early on. And though it’s a really fun movie to watch, it did inspire many people to use the underground monster as a threat. I remember seeing it later in Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules and the 2020 film Love and Monsters did a wink at the concept. It has also appeared in MANY video games like Star Wars: Jedi Knight – Jedi Academy and Mass Effect (the Thresher Maw).  

So while others might argue if this counts as a horror entry, I will stand by it wholeheartedly (mostly because it’s yet another excuse for me to talk about it).

  1. Jaws (1975)

Behind the scenes shot from Jaws

A Spielberg classic that kept people out of the water for months when it premiered. Yes. I am serious. This movie put such a strong fear into people that beaches (except for Martha’s Vineyard) were basically empty for months. A sort of hysteria overtook some members of the public, resulting in numerous incidents across the US. The threat of a huge shark – even if it was a horror element in a movie – was too real for folks to deal with. The movie did an amazing job of building its structure. It started off instantly with an attack not showing the shark at all, raising the fear of the unknown even more. Spielberg used an underwater shot showing Chrissie (Susan Backlinie) from the point of view of the hunter, but he had already built up your unease from the beginning. Dark water and brilliant music, thanks to John Williams. Trust me when I say this: the music and its use in the movie is one of the most important parts of the progress. 

Oddly enough, the shark named Bruce after Steven Spielberg’s lawyer – only has 4 minutes of screen time, just like the Xenomorph in Alien. 

  1. The Host (2006)

I already wrote about Bong Joon Ho’s amazing horror film The Host in my previous article about why you should start watching Korean Movies and Tv Shows

But we can’t talk about monster movies without mentioning this one. This one is special. Not just because it’s an excellent horror entry, but because of the drama elements it carries along beautifully throughout its whole runtime. Here the introduction starts with the creation of the monster itself. The good old-fashioned chemicals in the water scenario works extremely well here (I also very much liked it in Eight Legged Freaks). Only then do we get to know the main characters the story revolves around. The movie – quite unexpectedly – introduces us to the fully evolved monster right at the beginning, and we get the beautifully choreographed – and scary – beach scene. The way they used all of the previously mentioned tools here is beyond amazing. Not only does Bong Joon Ho manage to introduce us to the protagonists, but he also establishes and creates the rules of the antagonist while giving us one of the most intense scenes of the whole movie. 

The famous scene from the movie where our protagonist gets taken by the monster

The threat does not wait to show up; it is thrown in our faces right at the very beginning. But The Host is much more than just a very cleverly made horror movie; it is also an amazing drama. It has a perfect balance between the two which is very hard to do properly. You feel for these characters on a very deep level because they are so grounded in reality. You are scared for them, cry with them, mourn with them. 

This was my introduction to Bong Joon Ho’s work, and if you haven’t watched Parasite yet, I recommend that you start with this one too. 

  1. A Quiet Place (2018)

I never thought that John Krasinski would ever be able to surprise me this much. I don’t think any of us did. But he barged in, wrote this amazing story (with Bryan Woods and Scott Beck), directed it, and starred in it. All three in one. 

He was always the funny guy for me, not the master of tension and horror, yet here we are. I had a conversation with my friend, Katie, and I observed that this was the monster film I was waiting for since Alien. That’s high praise coming from me as I think I made it very clear that Alien is THE monster movie in my books. The opening for this first movie is simply masterful. John Krasinski didn’t waste any time establishing what we will experience. 

A Quiet Place gave me one of those perfect cinema experiences. I’m not overexaggerating when I say that this movie pulled everyone into its world so much that it was dead silent throughout the whole 90 minutes run time. Something that we all know rarely happens. There’s always someone chewing loudly or talking. Not with this one. 

Krasinski, with the very first shot, warned us all not to say a word. You can’t. One word to your friend on the left, or popcorn in your mouth, and you’re done for good. It was perfect world-building. We know the day, we see the state of the world, and we get introduced to the threat in the first 10 minutes. That’s when the movie proved that it will NOT be merciful to anyone in it. And it was all you needed to know that you are in for a wild ride. There’s a quieter part in the film where we witness their new dynamic, the drama that’s going on between the protagonists, and it is more than enough for people to connect with them in a very special way. 

When the inevitable arrives into the story, it perfectly balances all its players while slowly introducing us to the only weakness of the seemingly unbeatable monsters. And when it eventually pays off in the end, it is one of the most satisfying moments in cinematic history. 

  1. A Quiet Place – Part 2 (technically 2020 but in reality 2021) – SPOILERS, SKIP THIS PART IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN A QUIET PLACE – PART 2 YET! 

Yes, the rare case where the second one is better than the first. For me, at least. 

If I was tense during the previous movie, then this one doubles down on that. 

Day 1. 

What an ingenious way to start the movie. The audience is already intrigued. Day 1, huh? From the moment Lee (John Krasinski) enters the shop, gets what he wants, then goes out to the baseball field, the warning bells already go off in our heads. I was expecting one of the monsters to start wreaking havoc every second. I was literally on the edge of my seat. We witness their arrival – a spaceship or asteroid crashing through the atmosphere – and as the people start making their way back to their cars, the feeling of terror grows bigger. We are introduced to Emmett (Cillian Murphy) in this opening, and it becomes important later on. When I tell you all that I almost jumped out of my seat when the monster crashed into the police car, trust me, I’m not lying. The perspective changes to Regan (Millicent Simmonds – who is actually deaf) and every sound is cut off so we can experience the chaos from her point of view. It’s brilliant. The whole opening sequence (I don’t want to spoil everything in it) is absolutely masterfully done. It is one of the best openings I’ve ever seen. 

Then the story picks up right where the first movie ended. The family leaves the farm behind and goes to the last remaining signal fire that is left in the valley. The moment they step down from the sand road Lee created, you just know that everything will change. 

John Krasinski doubled down not only on the action but on the drama, the tension, and the scares as well. We stepped out of the quiet world of the Abbott family into a whole different one. The way he lets us take a closer look at how everything changed for other people as well is something that many before got wrong when it comes to second movies. Obviously, because of the success of the first one, second movies usually work with a bigger budget which can prompt directors to go big or go home. Krasinski didn’t do that. Sure, there is even more action in this one, but it still never loses focus on what’s important; hope. 

I loved how Emmett was shown at the beginning to be this rude, grieving man that slowly got turned around when he went after Regan. By the end of the film, he is a changed man, someone who dares to hope for the better thanks to those who arrived unexpectedly into his life. 

Kudos to both Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe (Marcus Abbott); they both portrayed their characters beautifully. I loved the subtle change they went through as well, how Marcus faced his fears and Regan stepped into her father’s footsteps. 

I loved the first movie, but I love the second entry even more. Beautifully done and the monsters are still scary as hell. 

 

Honorable mentions: 

Aliens (1986) – the only reason it isn’t among the previously mentioned six films is that I consider James Cameron’s movie more like an action film than a horror movie. It is in fact my favorite movie out of the Alien franchise, but it definitely focuses more on the action than the scares. 

Grabbers (2012) – this brilliant Irish film made me laugh so much. It does have a few scary moments, but just like Tremors they definitely went more in the direction of comedy. The monsters created for the film were brilliantly done. I highly recommend this movie to those who like to have a good mixture of both genres. 

Pitch Black (2000) – also known as the first Riddick film. Vin Diesel’s iconic character became well-known thanks to this and prompted the creators to expand its universe. This first film – fresh knowledge for me as well so it’s fair to say I freaked out – also features the one and only Claudia Black. 

The Descent 1-2 (2005, 2009) – I was contemplating adding this one to the creature feature section purely because the monsters are actually humanoids in this, I would even argue that they were once humans. This one also quickly turns into action instead of horror, which isn’t bad by any means. 

 

And there you have it. Is there a monster horror I left out that you love? I was also thinking about Love and Monsters (2020) that I dearly love, but after giving much thought to it I can safely say that other than a few tense scenes it definitely doesn’t fit the horror genre. 

 

What Effect Did Loki Have on the MCU Timeline? Series Review and Theories

What Effect Did Loki Have on the MCU Timeline? Series Review and Theories

Loki aired its last episode, which means that I can put all my thoughts into an article, review it, and ponder theories about it. Naturally, there will be spoilers from throughout the season. Without further ado, let’s get right into it! 

As a long-time fan of Tom Hiddleston (since Wallander), seeing his career grow was already a privilege, but now it’s just pure happiness. Ever since he was first introduced in Thor (2011) as the mischievous god Loki, I couldn’t wait to see more of what he would do with this role. I think it’s completely fair to say that he loves this character dearly and, more than anything else, he understands it. After 6 appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we finally arrived at Loki’s glorious return in the form of a Marvel TV series on Disney+.

Loki gives us the version of the character who escaped with the Tesseract during the time heist in Avengers: Endgame. From a character development standpoint, this is the Loki from 2012’s The Avengers. This Loki obviously didn’t go through all the same changes as the Loki we lost in Avengers: Infinity War. So people were wondering (and rightfully so) how well the series would work. This version of Loki still has a very rocky relationship with his family. He still believes in his “glorious purpose” and can’t see the bigger picture. Marvel didn’t disappoint, though. After his escape from New York, Loki was immediately arrested by the TVA (Time Variance Authority) and recruited to help by Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson). 

The first episode served two very important purposes: 

  1. Getting to know what the TVA was about. 
  2. Confronting Loki with the events he would have gone through if the time heist hadn’t given him an opportunity to escape. 

That second purpose was the answer fans were looking for after Endgame. By showing Loki what happened to him, his family brought out the side of him who was always there, the one Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Frigga (Rene Russo) saw and we all grew to love. Tom Hiddleston’s performance through those moments was incredible. It sure brought out some tears. 

After learning about the variants (people who disrupted the Sacred Timeline) and why it was important to keep them under control, the series revealed that the variant Mobius was after was, in fact, another Loki. They didn’t beat around the bush, and by the end of episode two, we met Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), aka “Lady Loki.”

The endeavor of the two Lokis was both mesmerizing and exciting to watch through the rest of the season. I, however, want to share my only two criticisms towards the whole show. 

From the moment they hinted at it in Episode 3 through to the season finale, I just hated the idea of making Loki and Sylvie’s relationship romantic. It would have made much more sense to give them a sibling kind of relationship since Thor wasn’t around to fill that role for them. Even better, I would have loved to see Loki discovering self-love by seeing things through Sylvie’s eyes. I honestly thought that’s where all of it was headed, but they just had to make it weird. Like, disturbingly weird. 

That kiss in Episode 6一even if I do agree with others that Sylvie used it as manipulation to achieve what she wanted一almost made me turn off the whole thing. I know many people don’t like it and a few who do, but people, please, it is just utterly weird and creepy. Some bring up the argument that something like this would be very Loki-like, but I have to disagree on that point. 

The other thing I didn’t really like is how it started as a Loki-based show and then it turned into a Sylvie show. I do think Sophia Di Martino was the perfect casting, and she did an amazing job with the character. BUT the Loki we came here to see basically got reduced to a secondary character. At points, he was nothing more than a helpless love interest and a stepping stone to Sylvie’s goal. They made him seem like he was a bit dumb and definitely way too naive. By Episode 3, I started seeing the signs of this, but it got progressively more true by the end of the season. In the last episode specifically, Loki was basically just tagging along. 

That said, this didn’t stop Tom Hiddleston from being the absolute highlight of every scene he was in. He is Loki; he understands this character like no one else can, and it shows in everything he does. I think it is one of the main reasons why many love both Tom and Loki so dearly. 

I am still trying to digest everything we saw and all the information we got from the show, but these two things definitely bug me in this near-perfect entry to the MCU. 

 

Looking ahead, what effects will the events in Loki have on the MCU timeline?

It seems that WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier served more as character developments while also setting up these characters’ places in the future while the true start to MCU’s Phase 4 is in the last episode of Loki. 

First and foremost, we were introduced to the next main villain of the MCU in the form of He Who Remains played by the amazing Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country). The show doesn’t reveal much at first, but people following MCU news closely know that Majors was cast as Kang, the villain in the next Ant-Man film. Kang the Conqueror is a time-traveling supervillain in the Marvel comics. He had several versions of him appear throughout the stories mostly fighting the Avengers and Fantastic Four. To quote He Who Remains himself from the last Episode: 

If you think I’m evil, well, just wait ’til you meet my variants.”

He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) waits at the end of time

It’s in this scene that He Who Remains revealed to Loki and Sylvie that they had two options. Option 1 was to kill him and, with that, break the Sacred Timeline, pushing it into war with his other variants wreaking havoc. Option 2 was to take over control of the TVA from him and preserve the Sacred Timeline indefinitely. With Sylvie being dead set on revenge, combined with not believing a thing that He Who Remains is telling them, she chooses Option 1.

With that one moment, the MCU changed at its core. 

I had a theory on why we haven’t had a Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer yet. With the rumors already surrounding the movie, I said that the reason we didn’t get a trailer is because the events in Loki will have a serious effect on it. I now whole-heartedly believe that I was right. We already know that there are two confirmed returns in Spider-Man with Alfred Molina reprising his role as Doctor Otto Octavius from Spider-Man 2 and Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Rumors have been going around ever since, that previous Spider-Man actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will be in the film. With the events of Loki in mind, there’s now a logical way that both Tobey and Andrew could return, each one as a Spider-Man variant. 

Also keep in mind that the big boss himself, Kevin Feige, hinted that you need to see the MCU TV shows to fully understand the upcoming movies. 

Spider-Man is just one of the stories that could be highly affected by the events of Loki. We don’t yet know much about this year’s upcoming films Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals, but I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if they also acknowledge the events from Loki. For certain, though, there are three other upcoming films that will have strong ties to the show: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is already very revealing just by its title. Jokes are flying around that poor Doctor Strange will have to clean up all the mess Loki and Wanda caused. Elizabeth Olsen has been confirmed to reprise her role as Wanda in the film, and rumors are that Tom Hiddleston will appear as Loki. Given the events in Loki, there are endless possibilities of where Doctor Strange’s story can go, and it would be impossible to even guess which way Marvel will take it. But, with Benedict Cumberbatch also returning in Spider-Man as Doctor Strange the chances of… well… madness… in his upcoming solo film literally multiplied. One thing is for sure, we are definitely not ready for what’s to come in this new era of the MCU. 

Natalie Portman from San Diego Comic-Con (2019) (photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez)

Thor: Love and Thunder will be affected, not just because Thor is Loki’s brother and is rumored to return in this movie, but also as part of answering the big questions about Jane (Natalie Portman). We haven’t seen her since Thor: The Dark World, and Thor: Ragnarok revealed that Thor and Jane broke up. So it definitely came as a surprise when Marvel announced the Phase 4 movies and TV shows that Kevin Feige happily announced that Natalie Portman will make her return. During the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con where this was announced, Natalie herself even held up Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir. This suggests we may see Mighty Thor from the comics in which Jane Foster becomes worthy to wield Mjölnir the same way Captain America did in Endgame. BUT, with Loki in mind and Jane Foster being MIA from the MCU for so long, one can’t help but wonder if this version of Jane is gonna be a variant.

Here’s my logic: We know that Mjölnir got destroyed by Hela (Cate Blanchett) in Thor: Ragnarok. Thor brought it back from the past during the time heist event in Endgame but it was returned to its original place by Captain America in the end. So at the moment, Mjölnir is in little pieces in the current MCU timeline, right? But then why would Portman have held up Mjölnir at SDCC? Given all that, I believe that the Jane Foster we are getting in Thor: Love and Thunder will be a variant. I might be completely wrong, but as the title of this article says I am giving you all my theories. 

Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania is likely going to be the film most affected by Loki. I believe that the TVA and the Citadel are both places existing in the Quantum Realm. In Ant-man and the Wasp, you can see a subatomic city structure for only just a second. Although it wasn’t confirmed by the end of Loki Season 1, I still stand by this theory. I think that what we see there is the TVA headquarters. Also, as I previously mentioned, we’re gonna see a version of He Who Remains in the next Ant-man movie in the form of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). 

The suspicious quantum realm city from Ant-Man

I won’t speculate about the upcoming shows like Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, or Marvel’s What If…? because while I do believe Loki could have an effect on them, I also think that the major multiverse events will happen in the movies more so than in the shows. But, at this point, it is all a waiting game. 

Our favorite God of Mischief made sure that we are not without excitement, entertainment, and fun. Loki managed to add even more layers for us to love in Loki while also giving us many things to look forward to. We don’t know yet when Season 2 will arrive, but one thing is for sure: Loki still has a lot of things to do, and I can’t wait to see it! I won’t try and speculate which way the story will go because I strongly believe it will be affected by the previously mentioned films. I’m confident saying that the future is bright for the MCU. Maybe, even brighter than ever before, and I honestly can’t wait to see what else they will come up with. 

What’s your take on the Loki series so far and how it’s going to impact other MCU films and shows? Let’s speculate in the comments!

 

Black Widow Movie Review

Black Widow Movie Review

I just came home from the cinema, and my head is buzzing with many thoughts about Marvel’s return to the big screen. But, before I get into it, I will have to put a big red: SPOILER WARNING. You’ve been warned. 

The MCU had been going strong since WandaVision graced our TV screens, but we had to wait a tiny bit longer for the return of the movies. When they first postponed Black Widow, I don’t think any of us thought that it would end up getting pushed back till the summer of 2021. Yet, here we are. 

There was a lot of speculation about what Black Widow would be about and where it would be on the timeline of events, but I don’t believe anyone guessed correctly I certainly didn’t. My theory was that Natasha is closed inside the Soul Stone and she would somehow relive her memories, but slowly she would realize what’s been going on. I was completely off track, which led to the very sad realization that this indeed was the last appearance of Scarlett Johansson in the MCU. This realization is due to the fact that Black Widow takes place between the events of Civil War and Infinity War when Natasha is on the run. 

At the beginning of the movie, we get a look into Natasha’s childhood with her father, mother, and little sister in Ohio. It sure seems idyllic until the eagle-eyed Marvel fans (aka me for example) start to chuckle. Natasha didn’t know who her parents were, and that is made clear throughout the MCU timeline. She is in fact very surprised when Red Skull reveals her father’s name to her in Endgame because she didn’t even know that. Therefore, we can already tell that something isn’t quite right in the scenario, even though it is nice to see a happy moment from our beloved Black Widow’s childhood, even if we soon find out that it was all an illusion. The people she treated as family betrayed her very early on and she and her little sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) are tossed back into the Red Room where the Widow training is happening. 

The movie fast forwards 21 years as Natasha is on the run from Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) after the events of Civil War. This is where we also meet Yelena again as she is on a mission and as she overpowers the target, a red substance is thrown at her. But instead of turning into a mindless monster, (which is something one could expect in a situation like this), her head actually clears up and it turns out that ever since Natasha escaped they have used very successful mind-controlling chemicals on the next generation of Widows. Yelena gets rid of the tracking device that is inside her and soon the samples of the ‘cure’ (let’s call it that) end up in Natasha’s hands.

Yelena (Florence Pugh) Alexei (David Harbour) and Natasha (Scarlett Johansson)

That’s the catalyst for the movie. It is so much more than just a superhero/action film from that point. Natasha has to deal with a lot. She goes from one broken family (The Avengers) back to another one only to find out that the famous Budapest events (referenced by her and Clint a lot) were all for nothing. It turns out that she had tried to kill the leader of the Red Room and the Widow program Dreykov (Ray Winstone) and her arch-nemesis had actually survived. 

Now before I get on with the review, I want to share a bit of a fun story that happened at this big reveal. I am from Hungary, and we’ve been waiting to find out what role our capital: Budapest, would play in the MCU since it was first mentioned in Avengers (2012). There was a line in the movie referring to events that probably aren’t funny to an international crowd, but the whole cinema here laughed out loud when it was said. Natasha says that after the bombing, which was supposed to take out Dreykov, she and Clint had to fight through the Hungarian Commando. We all laughed at this because TEK (the previously referred to Commandos) has quite a bad reputation here in Hungary because in a lot of cases they are deemed to be incompetent. So Natasha saying that they had to fight through them like it was a big deal made over 90 people laugh in the cinema even though I am sure they didn’t think of it as a source for laughter. 

Ok back to the review. 

Once Natasha realizes that what she did to close down her past and save other girls from the same fate was unsuccessful, a much darker thing comes back to haunt her. As it turns out, the day they tried to kill Dreykov they also killed his daughter because as she put it, “There was no other way.” It’s clear very early on that this decision never left Natasha’s mind, and that she has struggled to come to terms with what she did. To find forgiveness. It sits heavily on the film the same way their “parents” betrayals do. 

Natasha Romanoff

They soon figure out that in order to find the Red Room they have to get the help of their fake parents. First, they have to save Alexei (David Harbour) from prison – he was betrayed and put behind bars by Dreykov – and get to Melina (Rachel Weisz) who still works for the Red Room and is responsible for the chemical compound that controls the widows. Once they arrive at Melina’s home we get to witness one of the most important scenes in the movie as the two girls’ trauma catches up with them. I have to admit that I was unsure about Florence Pugh’s casting as Yelena up until this moment in the movie. Here she proved it once and for all that she is pretty great. It broke my heart a little as it also showed us that Natasha’s past has been darker than we could have imagined. Yelena represented the child who was unaware that nothing she saw or experienced during their three years as a “family” was true, while Natasha was old enough to know that it was nothing more than an act. Both of their hurt was real and deep-cutting. 

I really liked the more quiet parts of Black Widow. It once and for all proved that one of the original six deserved to have her own film and we still had a lot to learn about her. She is smart, strong, brave, and everything that’s worth looking up to. It definitely gave me more strength to keep going on my journey and do everything I can to one day be part of the MCU. 

I know a lot of people complained about Taskmaster being a letdown and while I do understand them, I do not agree with them. The tragedy of this character, and showing the true evil of the story is simply fantastic. Taskmaster is none other than Antonia Dreykov (Olga Kurylenko) aka the daughter of Dreykov, who was used by her own father the same way other girls were. He was controlling the mind of his daughter without any remorse. He even has the audacity to thank Natasha for giving him one of his greatest weapons. 

Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko)

The movie’s conclusion is amazing. Natasha not only finds forgiveness for what she did, but she also realizes that there’s still hope for her and her other family. They set Yelena up as our next Black Widow flawlessly and Natasha shows up at the end of the movie the way she looked in Infinity War, which gives a bittersweet touch to the whole story. 

I was ugly crying once the realization fully set in that this was our last time with Scarlett. She has been such a highlight of this Universe and she was an example for girls to look up to. She has been and always will be an inspiration. 

And the reason I will forgive Black Widow for coming out this “late” in the game lies in the end credit scene. 

Yelena goes to Natasha’s grave (with the dog she mentioned she always wanted) and that’s when FREAKING VALENTINA (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) to whom we were introduced in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier shows up to give Yelena her next target. It is none other than the murderer of her sister: Clint Barton aka Hawkeye. Now, my theory with this big-ass surprise, in the end, is that we will meet Yelena again sooner than we thought in the upcoming Hawkeye series. I mean, it would make sense, but I also know that there’s no point in creating theories when it comes to Marvel because they like to mess with us a little. 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier

All in all, Black Widow was a perfect entry in the MCU. Sure, we could have gotten it sooner, but to be honest I kind of don’t mind getting it like this. They did a wonderful job with tying the knots together,  and Scarlett’s last appearance couldn’t have been any better, even if it was bittersweet in the end. I sure will miss her. 

Thank you Black Widow. 

Thank you Marvel. 

I am sending my therapy bill. 

What did you think of the movie? Leave a comment below.

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